HORSE racing fans have the Cheltenham Festival, tennis fans have Wimbledon and for golf fans, it’s The Masters.
The four days produce moments that replay in fans’ memories over and over again – and that’s what makes the tournament so special.
Whether it was Tiger Woods’ chip from the back of the 16th green in 2005 or Phil Mickelson’s escape from the trees on the 13th in 2010, Augusta never fails to captivate and it’s the same from a betting perspective.
The cream usually rises to the top, with seven of the last 10 winners ranked inside the world’s top-20, meaning we can quickly rule out a hefty proportion of the 87-man field.
This coupled with the likes of Coral offering a generous 10 places, means solving this punting puzzle is perhaps easier than it first appeared.
The obvious starting point is Rory McIlroy, who bids to become just the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam and etch his name among the game’s greats.
Rory is the only player in the field to finish in the top-10 at the last five Masters and given he’s finished no worse than a tie for sixth in a stroke play event this year, it’s not hard to see why he’s the 7/1 favourite.
He’s the rightful market leader, but he looks plenty short enough considering his victory at The Players was his first since March 2018.
His implosion in 2011 and his final-round whimper last year hardly points to a ready-made winner and he must be taken on at the prices.
Of the others at the head of the market, Dustin Johnson looks sure to go well if his putter behaves itself, but it’s JUSTIN ROSE at 14/1 who is fancied for a first Green Jacket.
Many thought it would take Rose time to bed in his new clubs this season, but victory at Torrey Pines dispelled such concerns.
The world number one has played 13 times at Augusta without missing a cut, including two runner-up finishes in the last four years.
We’ve all seen how important course form is around here and Justin looks in a rosy position to become a dual Major winner.
I mentioned memorable Masters moments earlier and my second selection, LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN, produced another when holing his second shot at the par- 5 second in 2012 for a rare albatross.
He went on to lose to Bubba Watson in a play-off, but his preparations this time around have been solid and he could go one better at around 35/1.
A second at the Valspar last month, as well as 33 birdies at the World Match Play show his game is in terrific shape, so with the generous place terms available, Oosthuizen is expected to contend again at a course where he has finished in the top-20 in three of the last four years.
Speaking of course form, I find it hard to leave TIGER WOODS out at 16/1, given his love affair with Augusta.
In all honesty, the 14-time Major winner hasn’t really done much this year, largely in part due to a stone-cold putter.
Despite that, he hasn’t finished outside the top-30 and there were glimpses at the World Match Play that things were starting to fall into place.
Woods has always maintained that the Masters provides the opening tentpole of his season, and I for one would love to see a Tiger charge on Sunday.
Justin Rose e/w 14/1
Tiger Woods e/w 16/1
Louis Oosthuizen e/w 35/1